There are routines, or habits to build professionalism. They are no more complex than the habits you have already. Most of us have dozens of habits and routines and we don’t even realize it. Did you ever find yourself driving to work, only to remember you were really on the way to the grocer? Your “drive to work” routine took over when your mind went to something else.
We have habits to allow our brains to direct attention to tasks and thoughts outside of the one we’re performing right now. Some people look at their habits as a problem; smoking, late-night snacking, tapping their pen … all of these things can have drawbacks. But what if habits could work for you? What if you just need to establish the right ones?
Studies show that when people start eating a healthier diet, several things in their lives change, not just their weight. They drink less alcohol, take the stairs more often, and have a more positive outlook. Why? Eating healthier is what scientists refer to as a “keystone” habit. It’s a habit that can push the first domino in a line. If the person only ate a healthier diet, they would derive benefit. But as they take control of their eating habits, they also tend to start taking better care of their health in general. As they begin to feel better, they become more optimistic. And so it goes.
What habits can we add to our work day that may become keystone habits? Each of the habits below has been shown to be a keystone habit in professionalism. They will help you break out of some of your less successful routines, and may have you building a better work experience in general in a matter of days or weeks. Don’t tackle them all! Just choose one, and do it for a month. Then, choose another, if you like.
Keep your desk clean and organized
This will, by necessity, mean that you and your paperwork load will have to have a plan. As your paperwork becomes more organized and timely, what else might fall into place?
Every day, reach out to a different co-worker or subordinate, and offer help
You’re incredibly busy already, so why add “favors” to your daily to-do list? Because you will quickly gain a reputation as a team player. You will better understand how your workplace does, and doesn’t, function. Your co-workers will be more likely to help you when you need it, and your projects may receive better and closer attention.
Commit to being on time for everything
Being on time shows you’re organized and detail-oriented. It shows respect for the person you’re meeting. And in order to accomplish it, you’ll have to become more organized and self-disciplined. Where will that lead?
Keep a record of everything you do in a work day
Get specific – 20 minutes in traffic, 3 minutes at the Coke machine, etc. Looking at the habits you already have will take you minutes per day, and will make you consider whether you spend your time wisely. Not enough breaks? Too many breaks? Too much time on the phone? Buried in paperwork? Any time to work on new projects? Do you follow up with prospective clients who have turned you down? Find the wasted time, and take the reins of your schedule.
Take one full minute every day to remind yourself why you do your job
Is your work your passion? Are you working to buy a new car? Put your kids through college? Feed your travel bug? Don’t glance at a photo of a beach, or your kids. Spend one entire minute immersed in the details of your goal. Don’t answer the phone or drive to a client meeting. Just sit, and thoroughly connect with your goal. Does that put activities into a different perspective? What things seem more important? What things are less important?
Each of these habits build professionalism by themselves. What you add to them makes it stronger!